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Category: stillbirth (Page 2 of 3)

11 Ways to Honor a Friend’s Baby During October’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Did you know that? We tend to hear more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October instead of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness, so this month is full of fundraising and awareness. As we shed light on pregnancy and infant loss, it’s important to know how you can honor and support someone during the month of October.

  1. Light a Candle. October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. At 7pm in your time zone, you are invited to light a candle in honor of babies and infants who are no longer with us. You could encourage your friend or family member to participate in a local event or you can light the candle and share your candle on Facebook. In the Denver Metro area, the 5th Annual October 15th Candlelight Vigil and Remembrance event is taking place at 7pm and over 300 babies will be honored this year. Join an event and if you can’t join in person, many of these events will still honor babies and children without attendance.Candelight Vigil - Pregnancy and Infant Loss
  2. Send them a card or text message. While it is becoming more rare for people to send cards these days, it’s so wonderful to receive something tangible in the mail in which we can remember our baby by. There is a new line of pregnancy loss cards but Hallmark has some as well. I also love Carly Marie’s Line of Cards. If none of these cards seem appropriate, purchase a blank card and write “Thinking of you and your baby this month,” or “Remembering your baby this month and on October 15th we will light a candle in honor of your baby.” There are e-cards as well and if none of these fit your personality, send a text! The family will not be upset. They are already hurting and they are usually so happy that someone else has remembered their baby. This leads me into #3.
  3. Say their baby/child’s name. In the card, if you can replace “baby” with their baby’s name, they will feel even more acknowledged. Not only did you remember, you also remembered their baby’s name. But even if you don’t remember the baby’s name, don’t let that stop you from sending that card or message. When out with your bereaved friend or family member, bring up their baby/child. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just say something like, “I heard it is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and I wanted to let you know I am thinking about you and ________ (fill in baby’s name).
  4. Participate in a Remembrance Event or ask to participate with them. I mentioned the candlelight vigil in #1 but October is full of events. LED Balloon Releases, Remembrance Walks, Runs/5k’s, Lantern Releases, Candlelight Vigils and more. You can visit October 15th to find events in your area. And as I mentioned before, with many events you do not even need to be present to participate. It’s so wonderful when we can all gather together in remembrance especially with our close friends and family.
  5. Send a donation to an organization in that baby/child’s name. There are many organizations that support families through pregnancy and infant loss. Some also create bereavement packets and boxes that are given to newly bereaved parents and those boxes have a note that state “donated in memory of ________.” This can be a wonderful way to not only help a newly bereaved family while also honoring a baby/child. My organization Dragonflies For Ruby, provides personal one-on-one support to families enduring loss in any gestation. Services are free and we rely on donations to help keep the organization running. I also like to donate to Rowan Tree Foundation but there are many organizations that are in need of your financial help.
  6. Complete a Random Act of Kindness (RAOK) in their baby/child’s name and encourage others to follow suit. This can be an amazing and fun time. You could even set up a Facebook event page and place that event page on the RAOK encouraging others to share their subsequent RAOK. There are a few organizations that have similar projects but anyone can participate on their own. The Kindness Project has downloadable cards to help you and you can see a list of the RAOK’s others have done to help you with ideas. Some might be purchasing groceries for the person in front of you at the grocery store or leaving a $5 bill taped to a vending machine with a little note that this is an RAOK and where to share their thanks. Let your friend know so you can share in the joy!
  7. Purchase a remembrance sticker and give it to them. There are many places to purchase stickers, car magnets, and appliqués. Many can be personalized. I purchased a personalized car window sticker at Remembering Our Babies and I am in love with it. Even if your friend doesn’t display it, they will be appreciative of the gesture. Remember, it’s about showing them that you remember their baby and their loss experience. You are sharing in their experience when you remember and help them memorialize their child.
  8. A phone call. How many of us just pick up the phone these days and talk to the person on the other end? Just like calling to say Happy Birthday, you can call up your friend or family member this month and say, “Hey, I just heard it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and I wanted to let you know I am thinking about you. How are you doing?” Then share with them all you are doing in remembrance of their baby/child or make the offering to take them out to remember their baby/child.
  9. Take them out, spend time together, or just drop by to say hello. Bring a meal, cookies, or chocolate covered strawberries! Tell them why you are there, “It’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and I have some treats!” When someone I know experiences a loss, I bring over Grief Soup. Food is great for the soul! When you share in a meal, you share in so much more. Take the time to talk, mention their baby’s name and remember together.
  10. Facebook Status Update. An easy and cost free way to help remember and acknowledge someone’s loss is a status update, meme, or changing your profile picture to pink and blue. Messages can be simple, “Remembering ______ (insert baby/child’s name) this October.” Here is a great meme you can share!October 15th Meme
  11. Volunteer time or donate goods to a baby/child in need. This is something that is frequently done during the holidays but Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month is another excellent time to provide stewardship. Not only are you spreading awareness by sharing with an organization why you are gifting time or goods, you are remembering and honoring someone’s baby/child. You are also giving back and incorporating all I have mentioned above. Be sure to let your friend or family member know what you are doing and why. They will feel the love and compassion in your acts of kindness.

No matter how small your act may be, you are spreading awareness and showing you care. No act is too small or too big. Celebrate a lost baby/child’s life. With 1 in 4 women affected by miscarriage, 1 in 160 babies who pass through stillbirth, and 1 in 2500 babies dying from SIDS, there is no doubt someone you know has been touched by pregnancy and infant loss.

 – Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

An Open Letter – Worthiness Determined

Worthy

An Open Letter to an Undisclosed Person:

Thank you for meeting with me about my displeasure with your organization. I appreciated you taking the time out of your busy day to meet although your heart was not open and we left on the same terms with which we met. At the time, I was utterly exhausted from 36+ hours of work that I had completed and honestly had less than 5 hours of sleep when we met. As you know, my work is very emotionally draining and can be physically taxing but you weren’t concerned with that, just concerned about how you were going to defend yourself and organization.

Let me say that I was not trying to hurt you personally. My displeasure was because of many things. I addressed those with you but your heart was not open. You didn’t hear me, you were only there to defend. If I were a hospital representative who expressed those feelings, you would not have approached me in such a way. You would have been open to hearing my concerns. But I am not a hospital, I am just a person who you berated, threatened and attempted to rip apart her very core.

I wanted to keep the conversation on task by trying to explore the communication breakdown within your organization but you weren’t interested in fixing that organizational breakdown and only offered for me to call you personally when your organization failed to provide. If they failed to provide, you shared you would find a way to provide. You don’t see how that isn’t really feasible and ultimately, not sustainable for you, your family and of course, your organization.

Our conversation should have been about mending a damaged relationship, addressing communication failures, and coming together to provide for families but you did not see that. You came with discontent and hate towards a comment I made on my personal Facebook page. In addition, you felt assaulted because I did not involve your organization with one of my many clients. A client you should have never known I was serving and even though you did, you did not come to me. You expected me to come to you. And when I didn’t, you were offended.

I apologized to you but you did not accept it. You offered no humanity, you remained cold and heartless, ripping apart all I do and comparing my loss to yours. Discounting my children by stating I couldn’t possibly understand your loss and referring to them as blobs. I took it. It’s not like I haven’t heard it before but there was no need to compare our losses during this conversation.  It wasn’t about our deceased children or the grief we both carry for them. This was about your organizations failings and my businesses inability to utilize a service. Then the second piece was my sadness over something I lost from your organization as a bereaved mother.

You lumped them into one big issue and refused to see either side. You were grasping at every straw in an attempt to destroy me. It was wrong and inappropriate. You said I should have come straight to you with my displeasure instead of utilizing your organizations outlet for asking questions and submitting a complaint; instead of posting something on my personal page. But why should I have come to you directly?

You stated it was because we were “friends” on Facebook as if that gives me some entitlement. Maybe it does, but what about all those who had the same feelings and aren’t friends with you on Facebook? Where do they go when they feel disappointed? I suppose to your special VIP club that no one knows about. I wouldn’t come to you (the owner) no more than a Private would go to their General if they had a concern. I explained this, but you didn’t understand that concept.

You continued to “one-up” me. Any situation I discussed, you presented something worse that you were involved in. Your underlying message was that I couldn’t possibly have an understanding because I haven’t been where you have, seen what you have, experienced what you have and more. We are both unique. We both have stories to tell but you didn’t see that; only defensiveness and hate. That’s what you brought to this meeting.

When I shed tears in front of you because of the sheer exhaustion of my last 36+ hours, not a sign of humility appeared and you continued to thrash about, searching for oxygen to heal a wound you believe I created. No humanity; just defensiveness and continued berating of me and my profession.

“Anyone can do what you do,” you said. “I can do it without any training and slap a credential behind my name,” you blundered. No, “anyone” can’t do what I do just as much as “anyone” can’t do what you do. And this is where you became such a hypocrite and didn’t even see it. I chose for my client to have a personal service, untrained by your “standards” yet trained in her own way and definitely up to serving a special case, but she wasn’t “good enough” for you because she wasn’t trained by your organization.

You said your organization is “premier” with all the training and support that is received and that is wonderful. It does make your organization special. But my organization is special and premier too. It is also unique and came with an intense amount of training. You don’t see that and you won’t, even when I invited you in to share. “I have a friend that serves families the way you do and she doesn’t have training,” you muttered.

Oh, but it is very important that your friend receive training. I explained that it is frustrating that your friend doesn’t have any formal training because there is so much that can be offered. Maybe your friend is offering it but without the training, your friend may not even know. Training doesn’t make one superior but it does help families.

However, I see a bigger issue here beyond all that. It’s worthiness. You and your organization determine worthiness and that is not okay. It’s also discrimination at its finest. What makes someone more worthy than another? You have a manual complete with pictures and statements which determines worthiness. Your statements were sickening and heartless. I was in utter shock to hear you placing humans into worthiness categories, no different than all the scuttlebutt with Planned Parenthood who also determines worthiness.

“You see this? What can we do with that?” = UNWORTHY
“See this here? Now we can do something with this. We can create something great.” = WORTHY
“What do we do with a blob?” = UNWORTHY
“This one is so perfect.” = WORTHY

Looks determine worthiness. Age determines worthiness.

And you still question why I DIDN’T CHOOSE YOUR ORGANIZATION?  I was not going to allow you or your organization to determine the worthiness of my client or any of my clients for that matter. You continued on in an attempt to defend yourself but you really hurt yourself even more. The clarity I had after sleep was so unbelievable. You told me to call you and you would personally find the right person within your organization to help, but that isn’t helpful. It’s a special club; the club where those who were deemed unworthy, become worthy. It’s not enough that they are already in a “club” but now they are in a “sub-club” and can be treated as a VIP; if you determine them worthy.

But what about all those you never deem “unworthy?” Where are they left? What do they get? Oh, they can still get a box, which is much better than a bag, right? But that’s it. They aren’t offered the professionalism, just some random person with little training to fill in.

You stated that this can be too hard for some people in your organization; that they leave because its too difficult. So maybe the training isn’t correct? Maybe they need different training? More training? Have you explored that? Or maybe you tell them about the worthiness and they too feel that some are unworthy, because of your standards. This is not okay.

I asked where you wanted to go from here and you turned it back on me. I shared from my heart where I wanted to go with you and your organization, how much I believe in it, how much I support it but that didn’t matter. There was no thank you, just defensiveness and anger. Your heart never became soft. There was no reciprocation. You even went so far as to say that I performed a major disservice to a particular client. That if I had called upon your organization that you would have been able to provide something I couldn’t. You hit below the belt on this one although my client would not have been worthy by your organizations standards.

When I asked again where we should go from here, you said you asked that question and I didn’t answer which was not true and I again explained and asked what you wanted. “Respect,” is what you said. I had respect for you but how can one have respect for you after learning all these things? You asked for personal respect, which is admiration. But you do not have qualities with which I would want to admire nor emulate.

You didn’t ask for respect for your organization, you asked me to respect you. You didn’t ask me to support your organization, you asked me to support you. But after all that was revealed to me, in an attempt to show me what my clients may be missing, I cannot respect your organization. It is not all inclusive.

You are not the one that determines worthiness. I am worthy. My children are worthy. Everyone deserves VIP treatment no matter how hard it is. And finally, you had the opportunity to make things right, but you didn’t. So I just want you to know. I AM STRONG! I am here and I will provide VIP treatment to all my clients. They are all worthy! I operate with integrity. I do what’s best for my clients and if not using your organization is best, then that’s what I recommend.

Naivety vs. Faith in Pregnancy After Loss

Photo credit: Mike Hansen

Photo credit: Mike Hansen

I had an immense amount of faith during my pregnancy with G. When G was stillborn, I lost all that faith. I couldn’t understand why this happened and more importantly, why this happened to us. We were devout Catholics. We prayed for this baby. How could God have taken this baby? So when we became pregnant after G, I struggled with my faith. I couldn’t deal with the feeling that I had no control and attempted to control what I could (within reason). When L was born, I thought my faith might return but it didn’t come back quite like I expected. Am I changed forever? A.M.

What is the difference between naivety and faith? Did A have faith or was she living in the world of naivety which nearly every pregnant woman who hasn’t experienced loss live in? I have blogged about the loss of innocence before and this post really isn’t that different except I am using different words; Faith and Naivety.

Let’s define both.

Faith – Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

Naivety – Innocence or unsophistication.

actually had both faith and naivety. Her first pregnancy was full of innocence. Innocence that bad things don’t happen to babies. Babies don’t die. Faith that babies don’t die, that her trust in God will bring her a living, breathing baby. There are both aspects here but something happens when we lose a child or experience great loss. We lose the ability to channel that faith and the innocence is complete gone.

A may struggle to have complete faith again. This is not a lack of trust in God but a lack of trust/confidence that her Divine Father will provide her a living child. Her Father will provide but what will the provision be?

A will likely never enter another pregnancy naive or with that innocence that all will turn out well.

Channeling our faith with subsequent pregnancies can be difficult but we must try. If we don’t have faith in God, if we are spiritual but not religious, if we carry no spiritual beliefs at all, then have have faith in the child within your womb. They are there, present in this moment and we must carry some faith in that living being will continue to grow and be born alive.

Faith does not equal control, nor does faith equal religion/spirituality. Even though faith is most often associated with religion/spirituality, please don’t think that this post could not relate to you or your experiences. It is a belief, a trust, and faith that we will have a living child following our pregnancy.

But let’s return to A for a moment. To answer her question, she is likely changed forever. Most of us who are touched by pregnancy loss are changed forever in much the same way people are changed after losing a child of any age. We look back, we worry, we wonder, we protect, we question, we are cautious.

I experienced something similar as A. I became extremely faithful during my pregnancy with Ruby. Because I felt like I would lose Ruby at any moment, I thought that prayer could save her. I somehow believed that a lack of prayer could result in her being taken from me so I prayed more than I ever had in my life. It was my “control” and if I didn’t pray enough or the right way or even the right prayers, I was not worthy and my baby would be taken.

So when Ruby passed, I was not only devastated but found myself feeling unworthy of God’s love. I prayed, but he took her anyway. I was not “good” enough. I was His daughter who didn’t try hard enough. I wasn’t faithful enough to Him so He would allow her to stay with me and be born alive.

But that’s not what faith is about. Even if we remove the religious/spiritual aspect of faith, merely having it, does not mean that what we believe in, hope for, trust in, will happen. Does that mean we should no longer have faith? No, but it’s definitely more difficult to have faith when faith had been crushed in the past.

So how do we gain that faith back when we journeying through pregnancy after loss? How do we love again? How do we have hope again. Ah, those words.

Photo Credit: Flickr (Andreanna Moya Photographer)

Photo Credit: Flickr (Andreanna Moya Photographer)

We start small. We have to come to an understanding that we don’t have control over much of our pregnancy and how our baby develops. We embrace the things we do have control over (choosing a doctor, choosing a place for delivery, choosing a way to monitor our baby, choosing how many ultrasounds, choosing which diagnostic testing), and we bond anyway. That bonding is oh so very hard but we must try to bond anyway.

It will not hurt less if we don’t bond for we are already bonded. It’s hard to lower that wall of vulnerability, of opening our heart to such hurt if our baby dies anyway but we must try. We must try to show our baby, this new baby, all our love no matter how scared we are and how hurt we are.

I know it’s easier said than done. I have been there. I walked that journey and lost another. But I left that loss journey with better coping and more love for my child than I could have ever imagined. One of the ways I encouraged bonding was I committed to writing a note to my baby every day. I wrote whatever came to mind. I didn’t think too much about it.

I decided I would write the note to my baby on a white erase board. I then took a picture of the note on the board which ended up being our son’s memory book. This is an easy project but you must commit to it. This made me think each day about my baby and what I would want to share with them. It was perfect and if I were ever to become pregnant again, I would do this again.

There are other ways to bond, such as taking a bath, listening to music, taking a walk, getting a massage, etc but when you do these things you commit to thinking about your baby, talking to your baby (even if only in your head), sending vibes/energy to your baby, positive thoughts, etc. It’s not easy and the first few times might feel awkward and forced. This is okay. Just keep trying.

You may not ever feel normal again during pregnancy after a loss. You may not ever return to the innocence that you made it to a “safe zone” and you will bring home a living baby. You may not ever fully have the faith and trust in the pregnancy process but have faith in your child. Have faith that the child within your womb is yours and is meant to be there no matter how long or short that time is. You were chosen to carry your child. That is honorable.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

What is a Bereavement Doula? Glad you asked!

What is a Bereavement Doula?

That isn’t even a common question. I have been a birth doula for over 11 years and when I started, most people had no clue what a doula was, nor could they repeat the word. It was usually repeated back as “adoula.” When I began my bereavement doula journey, the occupation became even more confusing followed by the question, “Is there really a need?”

First, there is ABSOLUTELY, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a need for this occupation. The biggest concern I have right now, is how do I, and others in my occupation, get the word out to families that this is something they need. They don’t know they need it until it’s too late and then we hear, “I wished we had known about you at the time.” Even so, would they have called? Most likely they would not have called because this is not something expecting parents plan for and they are quickly overwhelmed with all the choices they are suddenly presented with.

Second, what is a bereavement doula?

Bereavement DoulaA bereavement doula doesn’t have one single definition. She is, who she is and supports in many different ways. She is unique. But in a nutshell, a bereavement doula provides physical, emotional, and informational support to families experiencing pregnancy loss. Yes, this is a similar definition to a birth doula who provides physical, emotional, and informational support to families during pregnancy, birth, and immediate postpartum.

So what does that support look like?

This is where the support becomes very individualized. It depends on the gestation of the baby at the time of death and the needs of the family. For miscarriage, the support may simply be attending the doctors appointment to confirm the miscarriage, presence with her in the emergency room while she bleeds and births her baby, emotional support via text, phone, email, or instant messaging while she labors and births her baby at home, preparing her to greet her baby, bonding options for her tiny baby, explaining options and final disposition for her baby’s body, and walking with her through the grief journey after she has birthed her baby.

For stillbirth, the support may include much the same as above but may be more in-depth for ensuring memories and mementos are created with a more fully formed baby.

Recently, a hospital social worker stated that it was her job to support the family. There is no doubt that the hospital social worker has an important role in supporting families through loss and through the NICU experience but there are some major differences in the support that a bereavement doula provides.

A bereavement doula will:

  • Provide individualized support
  • Be present during appointments
  • Attend the clients birth
  • Be there beyond any “shift”
  • Be available after hours
  • Will create a sacred space (music, lights, ceremony, smell, memories)
  • Hold space for the family
  • Won’t treat this as “just another shift” or “just another loss”
  • Hold hands and walk the family through their journey
  • Provide follow-up support for weeks and months to come
  • Give individualized resources and support groups

Some of these a social worker or bereavement coordinator can provide but there isn’t a single hospital program that can give a patient one-on-one continuous support by the same care provider for the entire length of the labor and birth.  This, right here is the biggest difference between a bereavement doula and any other perinatal loss specialist. Bereavement doulas are there, no matter how long it takes. We don’t work on shifts. It’s hard work. We aren’t bound by the same laws and policies as a hospital employee is.

Some hospitals follow-up with their patients following loss. Some hospice programs offer regular phone calls to ensure the family is doing well and these are wonderful additions to the perinatal loss program but how many hospitals and hospice programs have the same care provider following up in-person, on the phone, via email or via text? 

These are some major differences and these are all aspects of support that a bereavement doula provides. It is continuous, one-on-one, support for the family through pregnancy, birth, and beyond. I didn’t touch on other services that bereavement doulas can provide such as funeral planning but that is also available too. We have so much to offer families and we have a huge network of resources and tools to help the family cope and move forward.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

Helping Someone Through Preg-nancy Loss

Do you know someone who is going through a pregnancy loss?

1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage and 1 in 160 babies die from stillbirth. This is a very common occurrence during a woman’s childbearing years with very little discussion. You will likely have a friend or family member who will suffer such a devastating loss. Here is some practical guidance on how to help someone through pregnancy loss.

Don’t be silent. Silence can be extremely painful. They will remember your silence. There is a difference between active silence and silence that is to ignore. Ignoring silence means avoidance, rejection, minimization, rushing through the event, fear and silence because “this is so uncomfortable.” Families feel supported in silence when there is active listening, attentiveness and presence (a shoulder to lean on). Don’t just fill silence with jabber. It’s okay to just sit with the family in silence, but do not ignore their pain.

Grief has no timeline. They will never forget. Don’t put time limits on how long you think they should grieve. Don’t disappear because you think you will “make them cry,” or “make them remember.” They want to remember and they will cry anyway. They will find comfort in you remembering.

“The grief felt from losing a baby is not smaller because the baby is smaller. The empty place felt from a baby’s death is never going to be filled. It’s a pain that will never completely heal or be relieved by subsequent pregnancies.” Melinda Olsen, Earth Mama Angel Baby

The list below gives you many ideas on what to say and how to help. Keep in mind there is no one right thing to say or do.

What to Say

“I don’t know what to say.”
“Who can I call for you?” (Be prepared to actually make those phone calls).
“Be patient with yourself. Grief has no timeline.”
“Don’t feel guilty because you laughed today.”
“Can I take your baby’s siblings to the park? I know you don’t feel like laughing or playing right now.”
“I am going to the store, can I bring anything back for you?”
“Talk to me. I am here to listen.”
“I am out running errands, is there anything you need?”
“How are you doing today?”
“You don’t have to answer the phone or call me back, I just wanted to check in on you.”
“How about I take your baby’s siblings to school, or grandma’s, or ____?”
“I would love to attend a support group with you or go to church with you.”

What Not to Say

“You can have another baby.”
“At least you know you can get pregnant.”
“It was God’s way of protecting you from ____.”
“It was God’s will.”
“Heaven needed another angel.”
“Your baby is better in Heaven.”
“Time heals all wounds.”
“I know just how you feel.” (Unless you have personally experienced pregnancy loss).
“It could have been worse.”
“Now you have an angel/saint in Heaven.”
“You should be over this by now! It’s been ____ weeks/months/years.”
“God never gives us more than we can handle.”
“What can I do for you?” Instead say, “Can I do ___ for you? Or “I am going to bring over a meal” not “Can I bring over a meal?”

Things You Can Do

  • Listen – They may want to talk over and over again about the pregnancy and the death experience. Be the person they can go to and vent with and repeat their story. Most people want to stop listening after the 3rd or 4th time.
  • Bring tissues.
  • Give them a hug.
  • Encourage the family to have pictures taken with their baby.
  • Ask and hold the baby.
  • Be their shoulder to cry on. If they don’t want to talk, they may just want someone to lean on while they cry. Let them cry. Crying is just one way to express grief.
  • Cry with them. You don’t have to be stoic. Crying helps validate that this is a sad time and an experience worth grieving. They will not be angry with you for crying.
  • Be there – For the birth that is. If you would have most likely been there for the birth anyway, be sure to let them know you would still like to be there to support them. At the very least, the family may prefer you wait in the waiting room (which can be typical at a live birth too).
  • Call their baby by name – which may seem weird. Unless the family does not want you to call their baby by name, this is preferred.
  • Mementos – Bring something for them to remember their baby by. For any birth, people give gifts. This is no different although the gifts might be slightly different. The family may want an outfit, so ask. Families are often encouraged to dress their baby just like they would at a live birth. A teddy bear that is at least 14 inches but less than 24 inches is best as well. Mom can hold the bear as she leaves the hospital. You can also find out the baby’s weight and make a bear of the same weight. Anything with the baby’s name or birthstone on it, such as jewelry, is also customary. Any of the traditional keepsakes will also work such as something to preserve a lock of hair, handprints/footprints, molds and books or special boxes to keep pictures in.
  • Offer to make phone calls for them.
  • Send a card. There is actually a line of cards for pregnancy and infant loss by Hallmark and other card makers.
  • Be comfortable in their tears.
  • Attend the funeral/memorial service.
  • Send a daily message but do not expect a response. “How are you today?” “Thinking of you.” “Hope things are going okay.”
  • Understand that the next year will be a “year of firsts.” Going into their home without their baby will be a “first,” returning to work will be a “first,” going to the same grocery store will be a “first,” and any holiday will be a “first” holiday without their baby. There will be many “firsts.”
  • Remember the baby’s birthday/angel date/death date. Send a card, make a phone call, send a text. It can be as simple as “Remembering your baby’s (can insert baby’s name) birth today.”
  • Remember the baby’s due date – If their baby died before their due date, this will be a particularly difficult day. Let them know you are thinking of them and you are there.
  • Be supportive in the weeks and months to come.
  • Attend memorial events – Be there for the funeral or any memorial events and find local walks and other annual remembrance events to help them share their baby.
  • Set up a meal train/calendar of people who will bring them meals. Soups can be hearty and healthy. This recipe for Grief Soup is amazingly healing and delicious. Bringing veggie trays, fruit trays, sandwich trays, or just setting out some healthy food can be extremely helpful. It is a reminder that the family needs to eat, which is often put on hold while mourning.
  • Bring household items such as milk, eggs, butter, toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, aluminum foil, toothpaste, etc.
  • Mow the lawn, take out the trash, bring in the trash cans, etc.
  • Pick up around the house (do laundry, mow the lawn, empty and load the dishwasher, make the beds, etc). Do not break down the baby’s nursery or remove any items for the baby.
Excerpted and adapted from It’s Not Just a Heavy Period; The Miscarriage Handbook. You can also find this information and more in The Miscarriage App

 

What if doctors changed this in relation to miscarriage and stillbirth?

Woman Grief - labeled for reuseMany families who experience miscarriage or stillbirth want to have genetic testing done both on themselves and on the baby. They want to know “why” this horrible experience happened. When it comes to miscarriage, many women are told that they must endure three miscarriages before testing will be done. They are rarely given the option to pay for it themselves nor are they told about private labs that provide testing.

With both miscarriage and stillbirth, there is only a 50/50 chance of any “diagnosis” being found. It is just as rare to receive the “why” as it is to be told, “your baby was perfect and we don’t know why.” Even with a reason, many families don’t find peace. “A knot in the cord, a genetic anomaly, a congenital defect,” are just some of the reasons families are given for their baby’s death. “What can we do to prevent this from happening again?” the family might ask?

“Nothing,” the doctor replies. “We can do genetic testing earlier and then you can decide how to proceed.”

Of course, there are probably other options that we won’t discuss here such as embryo selection.

Hearing that your baby was perfect may not bring peace either. “If my baby was so perfect, my baby would be with me,” explains a grieving mother.

Each mother might be left with doubt. Doubt about her health, doubt about her body, concern for what she did or didn’t do during her pregnancy. “Did I eat something bad? Did I exercise too hard? Was the shower too hot? Did I breathe in too much gasoline at the pump? Was I exposed to something that caused this?”

Doubt! It’s a horrible part of the grief journey. It’s almost always there.

What if instead of saying, “your baby was perfect,” doctors began to say, “We do not yet have the medical technology to find out why your baby died.” This statement alone, can reduce much of that doubt. This statement alone suggests there still might be a reason. Because there very well could be a reason.

What if?

Would hearing this statement have helped you on your grief journey? Would hearing this statement leave us in the same place we were before? We want a reason. We need a reason. Even if it’s not a reason we are comfortable with, it’s easier to say, “my daughter died because of low progesterone, vs. she was a perfect embryo and we don’t know why.”

“Why” was something I was looking for and paid for, yet did not receive. There were issues with why I didn’t get a “diagnosis.” I have my speculations but I couldn’t have it confirmed. “Maternal tissue only” was presented to the pathologist.

So what do you think? Would changing the words help you find peace?

My friend had a stillborn baby

I am contacted frequently with the question; my friend had a stillborn baby, what can I do? In addition, the biggest question I am asked is, what do I say or not say? You will find many websites that have great information on what to say and not say, but let me tell you from the personal and professional standpoint; DON’T BE SILENT!

Born in Silence was a series that ABC News featured which can be helpful in learning how families cope. In talking with families, they often mention family and friends who have seemed to disappear or blatantly ignore them. These friends and family members ignore them for many reasons but usually it’s because they don’t know what to say or do. They somehow think that being silent and giving the grieving family space is what is needed and that is far from the truth in most cases.

Some friends and family will even tell the grieving family to move on and forget about the baby or child they just lost even if the child had been born living. Society believes, for some unknown reason, that a baby isn’t worth grieving because “they weren’t here for very long” or “you didn’t know your baby.” I have blogged about the “loss of a possibility” before but let me tell you that we DO know our unborn babies. Their death means losing “what might have been.”

With Timmy, I felt him moving beginning around 12 weeks of pregnancy. By 20 weeks, he had a definite pattern to his movements and I could tell when he was sleeping. Soon, I would feel him hiccup and if I talked with him, he would respond. He would even respond to my husband and his brother as well as move around to certain sounds and music. And we have hopes and dreams for that child that were crushed by their death so there is a big reason to grieve their death—OKAY?!

I wouldn’t grieve more if my husband died because I knew him longer and I certainly wouldn’t grieve less if Timmy died now having only known him for the past 13 months (21 if you count his pregnancy). Grief is not measured by the amount of time a person is here or how long we have known them. There is just grief.

So, what can you—as a friend when you hear your friend’s baby died?

  • Listen – They may want to talk over and over again about the pregnancy and the death experience. Be the person they can go to and vent with and repeat their story. Most people want to stop listening after the 3rd or 4th time.
  • Bring Tissues
  • Be their shoulder to cry on. If they don’t want to talk, they may just want someone to lean on while they cry. Let them cry. Crying is just one way to express grief.
  • Cry with them. You don’t have to be stoic. Crying helps validate that this is a sad time and an experience worth grieving. They will not be angry with you for crying.
  • Be there – For the birth that is. If you would have most likely been there for the birth anyway, be sure to let them know you would still like to be there to support them. At the very least, the family may prefer you wait in the waiting room (which can be typical at a “happy” birth too).
  • Call their baby by name – which may seem weird. Unless the family does not want you to call their baby by name, this ispreferred.
  • Mementos – Bring something for them to remember their baby by. For any birth, people give gifts. This is no different although the gifts might be slightly different. The family may want an outfit so ask. Families are often encouraged to dress their baby just like they would at a “happy” birth. A teddy bear that is at least 14in but less than 24in is best as well. Mom can hold the bear as she leaves the hospital. You can also find out the baby’s weight and make a bear of the same weight. Anything with the baby’s name or birthstone on it such as jewelry is also customary. Cards are also welcome and can be kept as a keepsake. Any of the traditional keepsakes will also work such as something to preserve a lock of hair and keep pictures in (which is also encouraged).
  • Offer to make phone calls for them.
  • Understand that the next year will be a “year of firsts.” Going into their home without their baby will be a “first,” returning to work will be a “first,” going to the same grocery store will be a “first,” and any holiday will be a “first” holiday without their baby. There will be many “firsts.”
  • Due date – If their baby died before their due date, this will be a particularly difficult day. Let them know you are thinking of them and you are there.
  • Attend memorial events – Be there for the funeral or any memorial events and find local walks and other annual remembrance events to help them share their baby.
  • Bring them Grief Soup
  • Pick up around the house (do laundry, mow the lawn, empty and load the dishwasher, make the beds, etc).

These are just a few ideas on how you can help your friend through a stillbirth. Other resources for you can be located here:

Stillbirthday Farewell Celebrations

 

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

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First published at allthatisseenandunseen.com

Recipe for Grief Soup

Grief Soup

When a family experiences the loss of a child, I make them grief soup. I have blogged about this soup in the past. It is amazing and so healing. I have served this soup though for other types of loss as well, the loss of a mother, the loss of a brother, and the near death of a co-worker.

Before I list the full set of ingredients it is important to note that the number one ingredient in this soup is LOVE. It must be made with love and mustn’t be rushed. Trust me! I have rushed this soup before and it turned out awful. This soup doesn’t take that long to make but rushing things will surely make this soup taste awful and the family won’t find it healing.

Grief Soup aka Sausage and Potato Toscana Soup

 

  • 5 links sweet Italian sausage
  • 4 medium baking potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 3-4 slices of bacon (chopped) or 1/2 cup of pancetta
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 cups kale (chopped, then sliced)
  • 6 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 6 cups water
  • 32oz beef stock
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

In large stockpot, place onions, garlic, bacon, and sausage (remove sausage casings first). Cook on medium heat until sausage is cooked through and onions are translucent.

Add water, beef stock, chicken bouillon and potatoes, simmer until potatoes are soft (approximately 20 minutes). Add kale and cream. Simmer 4 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve with warm bread.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage 

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My Wish For You

The holidays can be such a difficult time for families enduring pregnancy and infant loss. My wish this holiday season is that you will find strength and comfort. May your friends and family offer their shoulder and may they lift you up when you feel you can no longer go on without your child(ren).

Even if you have living children, I know the familiar feeling of wishing you could be with all your children. I still remember being angry that she left me here on Earth and even though I wanted to be here for my husband and living son, I still very much wanted to go with her. I wanted to know her. I still do but I am okay. I will be okay.

So, if you are struggling this year, especially during the holidays, please know that you are not alone and that I am here for you…thinking about you and your babies.

Christmas 2014 - Dragonflies for Ruby

Supporting Miscarriage or Stillbirth – Why Training is Essential

 

WARNING – Graphic details and may not be suitable for all audiences.

It takes a special person to be able to assist a family through their miscarriage or stillbirth. This isn’t something the average person can do because it’s so emotional and the family can react in many different ways. Without a full understanding of grief, the un-trained person can be taken by surprise and pass judgment on the family. I cannot train someone in all the aspects of supporting a family through miscarriage and stillbirth in this post.

I have over 50 hours of formal training in bereavement and hands-on experience assisting families through their grief and until I had this training, I believed that it didn’t matter if the person assisting the family had training so long as the family had support. Now that I am trained, I know this is not true. There is so much to know.

If you have no experience with death and the process the body goes through when decomposing, you may be shocked when a stillborn baby has a “nose bleed” or when the skin sloughs off. You may also not be prepared for the discoloration of their skin and nails.

Looking shocked and disgusted in front a family can add to their devastation as well as their own shock and disgust. This may impede healing by thinking they shouldn’t hold their baby when in fact, they should be encouraged to do so despite any decomposition that took place in the womb.

If you have no knowledge or education on hospital policies in regards to stillbirth or miscarriage, you may not be able to support the family properly in their choices. You may also negligently tell them they can do something that they cannot such as take their baby home to bury or tell them they cannot transport their baby to the funeral home themselves (these policies vary by hospital and county).

You may also not be aware that in many hospitals, families are encouraged to “room-in” with their baby, just like with a happy birth and these babies are kept cool to help slow decomposition. You may also not be aware of healing options such as bathing and dressing their baby and creating memories. There is so much more to creating memories than just having photographs or footprints available. If something isn’t offered or is forgotten, the family may be extremely hurt later on when they no longer have the opportunity to make a certain memory. These are just a few areas that many aren’t prepared for when supporting a family through stillbirth or miscarriage.

There is specific language that should be used so as not to hurt the family anymore than they are already hurting. It is also important for caregivers to understand that options should be offered several times and that information should be repeated since many families are in such a shock they aren’t hearing everything that is being said. Encouraging them in loving ways is important.

Women experiencing miscarriage are often discharged with no options. They may have left their doctors office or the ER with the news that their baby no longer has a heartbeat or they are experiencing a miscarriage and that’s it. They are rarely offered burial, cremation (although they may not receive any ashes depending on gestation of baby), a blessing for baby, naming the baby, holding their baby, and/or planning a memorial. Many leave confused wondering if their baby is worth grieving because medical staff refer to their baby as ” embryo, fetus, tissue, products of conception, or cells.”

There is so much information to know and even with training, we may not always do it right but that is no excuse not to receive training. The good thing is, there are several ways to receive training. You could attend a workshop with The Wishbone Foundation. They hold free workshops twice a year for medical personnel. Stillbirthday offers an eight week training course and certification many times each year. Stillbirthday also hosts mini-workshops with hands-on activities. Another organization where you can receive training is Loss Doulas International. This training may be available in the Denver Metro area soon.

I implore each and everyone one of you who has the love in their heart to assist families through the loss of their child to receive formal training. It is imperative. It is important, and most of all, it is a disservice to the family not to be educated on what they are going through and all of their options. You only get one chance to get it right. Get trained.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

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